What is a Mason?

By Wor Bro Clive Herron – Marine Lodge 627 I.C

At a recent meeting of Marine lodge I made the statement that - "once a Mason always a Mason - once you obligate yourself in the Entered Apprentice Degree you become a Mason for all time even though you may resign or become unaffiliated you cannot dis-obligate yourself (if there is such a word) Whilst I still believe that once you have taken a solemn obligation and sealed this on the VSL it becomes binding on your conscience for all time, but does this make you a mason in more than just the name.

The Rt Wor Provincial Grand master posed the question. WHAT IS A MASON and WHEN DO YOU BECOME A TRUE MASON? He asked, is it,  when you take the obligation in the First Degree or is there some later stage that we truly "See the Light” and become a real Mason

The question set my mind thinking.

·        What is a Mason? and

·        when, do you become True Mason?

bullet Is there an answer?

These questions seem straight forward.  We know that we enjoy being Masons but do not always know how to articulate this. I will try to give an overview of why we are masons and what masonry is. You should be able to decide for yourself what makes a true mason and where you slot in.

At this stage the important question is not "Are you a true Mason?" I will leave that for you to decide. It is the more searching and difficult query, "What is a true Mason?"

 “What’s in it for me?” This is one of the things that’s always the same in life.  No one wants to become involved in something unless they benefit from it.   This question must be answered for if we do not know what we want from it, it matters not what it is.

Think back as to why or how you came to join Freemasonry and you will find that there are striking similarities with other Masons.  Some of these are:  some of our male relatives were masons and it was the family thing to do; some of the men we worked with and associated with were masons.  We wanted to fit in with the crowd.  People that we admired and respected were masons.  We wanted to emulate them and we wanted to belong to the most respected fraternity in the world.

Being a Freemason affords you the opportunity to be with others who have the same interests.  These men support one another.  This applies not only to the activities of the Lodge but also to the activities of daily life.  The friendliness is genuine and the feeling we have for one another is evident and especially experienced by those Brethren who visit other lodges.

Freemasonry is one of the few places that we can gather in confidence that we will leave with all that we arrived with.  We do not take advantage of one another we know that we can leave our possessions unattended in the company of masons and not be bothered. How many places can this occur in today's world?  Not very many.   You are one of a very selective group. We do not knowingly; accept any man who would take advantage of others. 

You learn how to work through our tough times and make our lives better and more productive. 

If disaster should befall us the lodge and it’s brethren will be there to help to the best of their ability. It could happen that a Brother’s widows may need assistance.  All she needs to do is call the Master of the Lodge and the brothers will do all that they are able to do for her.  This affords security for the mates of our departed brothers.

We do not hold the sole right to good men but we do call ourselves Masons and as such there are some of the things about masonry that make us different to members of any other fraternal organizations. All this is good to know but is peripheral to what and who we are and  alone, does not add to us being a good and true Mason.

Freemasonry is a story of life.  It carries joy, heartache, failure and triumph.  In books one can read its teachings, symbols and ambitions.  We do not practice our craft in the dark but rather in the full light of day. We are required to practice the teachings and love we are taught by the lights of our fraternity. No other fraternity offers the lessons contained within our ritual.  Every word and act in our ceremonies carries a lesson to each of us.  If we will just open our eyes, hearts and ears and put into practice as we are taught we the stand a chance of being called a true Mason.

Freemasonry is a subject that can be studied and the more you study and give thought to what we see and hear we will find new meaning and inspiration.  Each time this happens we are made more aware of what Freemasonry is and for what it is intended.  Great men have devoted many years to the cause of Freemasonry and when they thought their work was finished they realized that they have only begun to see the light and that they had only started to uncover the truths contained within our ritual.

I do not believe that any man has fully understands all of the lessons freemasonry teaches as we are living in a world with changing values.

Freemasonry has stood through the years as a shining light a beacon to the world.  The greatness of the fraternity is not due to secret teachings, mysteries or deeds.  It is due to the lessons taught by its ritual and the comfort, inspiration and enlightenment brought to all who will study it.  Through this study men learn more about how to live up to the obligations that they have taken when they first became members of the Fraternity. They learn to better control their passions, prejudices, angers and tongues.  The true Freemason is different to most of the people around him for he has the lessons of the Fraternity within him as he walks through life.  He truly learns who he is and what he is on this earth for.

Freemasonry offers comfort to those who sorrow, hope for those who despair, counsel for those who err, and joy and contentment to all who genuinely practice it.   The philosophies of our fraternity provide a simple but profound solution to the problems of human relationships.  It is an accepted way of life to the true mason. Freemasonry has a solid foundation of unchanging principles.  It is an excellent training ground for ethical living and moral behavior.  The true mason's word is his bond.  What he says, he means.  He practices fairness and honesty in all his dealings.

This is important to the true Mason as the world around him has no clear sense of purpose or firm spiritual foundation.  To many people, the Mason's vision of life is ludicrous.  These modern times society seems to be seeking the lowest common denominator where the only question they want answered is what can we get away with? Today the world is fast going toward self regulation.  

Self-seeking is becoming increasingly prominent.  Allegiance is becoming secondary to the selfish pursuits of the individual.  In other words, society is falling apart.  We see around us high unemployment, people who are worried about holding on to their jobs, shrinking buying power, continual warfare in the streets, commercialized sex, drugs being sold in every neighborhood, crimes of every kind are on the rise,  rampant consumerism that works on people to buy things they do not need and homeless people are in every major city area.  We are living in a throw away society where values count for less and less.

We see people more and more who do not think of the dignity and feelings of others.  They have forgotten the virtues of temperance and prudence.  These virtues can not be legislated but must be practiced for the good order of society. Justice seems to take a back seat to rights in our society. Without justice our way of life is doomed.  A true Mason must get our society back to the basics that honesty is the best policy. When we talk zero tolerance we must mean it. Don’t complain about crime yet buy a TV set (for example) from someone on the cheap. This could be stolen property. All Freemasons are part of this world around the and by the actions and conduct should stand out as a shining beacon.

Now listen very carefully to what I am about to say

The real meaning of being a Mason rests in education and character forming.  While it may be accepted as an innermost desire, followed by obligations that makes us members, yet in a larger sense, a man is never a Freemason until he truthfully and loyally lives up to his obligations. He cannot do that until he understands them and begins to learn their scope and meaning.

o        Freemasonry can help good men to withstand the pressures of our run away society.

o        Freemasonry can help good men to renew the values that are needed to rebuild our society.

o        Freemasonry can help good men to gain the knowledge to make our cities safe again.

o        Freemasonry can help good men to become better men.

Freemasonry teaches that the road to happiness is found in the journey towards perfection of spirit, intellect and soul. Freemasonry teaches men to reach their fullest potential. The Freemason works toward these goals each day of his life.  To aid in his journey he studies the VSL, the history of man, and the philosophy of life.  He cares for his family and his faith.  He puts forth his best efforts for the payment he receives in the workplace.  He helps his neighbour and his community and he attends his Lodge so that he may fellowship with others who share his aims and goals.

As society digs the earth from under the stones of civilization a true Mason, stands ever watchful, guarding the foundation of Freemasonry so that the fraternity will always stand tall for what is right and good in the world.

The Freemason is a builder.  The spiritual building he works on is never finished.  With every stone he lays there is another to be shaped and set.  The more men work and learn together, the better the building.  We offer brotherhood, understanding, help, encouragement and moral support.  Unless men are properly influenced and guided by principles there is no hope for a brighter tomorrow. Not for society, not for freedom, not for Democracy and not for Freemasonry our fraternity is a bastion of morality.  Perhaps it is the last one outside of the secular churches.  We have an advantage over them because we cross all religious boundaries and bring together men of every country, sect and opinion in peace and harmony. 

In our younger days, most of us had a circle of friends with whom we did and shared everything.  As we grew older and the concerns of the world began to hem us in we became distant from this sharing.  Freemasonry affords the opportunity to regain this important part of life.  To have friends with whom we can share our innermost secrets without fear of ridicule or reprisal is something that we can not get in most places. As we progress through life with our brothers we find that our lives become richer, better and more fulfilling. The true mason is able to contribute to making his brothers life more meaningful.

For me freemasonry is more than ceremony and ritual, no matter how superbly it is executed Alone it is not enough to really make a man a True Mason.

As the operative master of the craft had to acquire certain skills, specific knowledge, and practical experience over a period of years before he could qualify for the title of master mason. So too a speculative Mason, must likewise demonstrate in his own life the qualities and experiences which alone can make him a symbol of the Brotherhood.

Ritual and ceremony will help him to define and to recognize those spiritual skills. The important question is not "Are you a Mason?" It is the more searching and difficult query, "What is a Mason?" As the operative master mason was trained individually to be an architect or overseer of the work. He was a man of worth and dignity. The Speculative True Mason must also through discipline be a master of the moral and spiritual skills promoted by the Craft. His excellence must make him a man of worth and dignity.

To bring this to a personal level - Have I met Masonry’s expectations of me?

The answer is I don’t know.  I know l try to be worthy of being a True Mason. I try to be a good man. I also know I fail sometimes and that bothers me. But I try again. Life and learning has taught me, always to try again. Masonry’s lessons have helped me to focus on those things in life that are worth trying to achieve.  Faith in God, love of family and a desire to do better

Have you met Masonry’s expectations?

I don’t know. You are Masonry and that is your judgment and will be the deciding fact as whether you are simply just an initiated mason or a true mason in deed

Freemasonry is the Science of Life, taught in a society of men by Signs, Symbols  and Ceremonies; with peculiar Ritual, having as its basis a system of morality, and having as its end and purpose the perfection of the individual and the [whole human] race.                                      - -  George Fleming Moore